clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A history of pitchers and foreign substances

Michael Pineda was certainly not the first or last to have a "mysterious" substance on his pitching hand.

"I wonder if they'll let me have honey on my hand."
"I wonder if they'll let me have honey on my hand."
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Because it seems a single Yankees-Red Sox game can't go by without some sort of controversy at least part of all the broadcasts of yesterday's game was devoted to the brown substance that was on Michael Pineda's wrist. Initially thought to be delicious maple syrup left over from Pineda's hearty brunch, it was surmised to be pine tar (although Pineda has denied this). It's not unusual for pitchers to try to add to their grip on the baseball with what is technically considered an illegal substance, but the rule is only lightly enforced as long as the ball isn't coated with the stuff. But pine tar is only one of many foreign substances and doctoring techniques that pitchers have used throughout history to give themselves that extra edge. And as Pinstripe Alley's resident Grand Maester, I was able to compile a list of them for you.

Gobs of spit: Gaylord Perry so famously doctored his pitches that he titled his autobiography after the spitter. Legend has it that Perry had his own personal camel drench his hands with saliva before taking the mound each inning. Upon being found out, Perry simply started putting the entire ball in his mouth.

Dynamite: Likely influenced by the golden age of Looney Tunes, pitchers in the 1930's would place a stick of dynamite in the baseball before throwing them. Opposing batters responded by dropping grand pianos on the pitchers that resorted to this tactic. Many careers were tragically cut short.

Steroids: While in Toronto, Roger Clemens administered the steroid known as"the clear" to the baseballs he used in a misguided effort to assist with his pitching. Only upon noticing that they stayed the same size and had no increased stamina he realized it was meant to be used on the player themselves.

Grease: With the proliferation of absurdly unhealthy ballpark food such as bacon-wrapped corn dogs and burgers between grilled cheese or donuts, pitchers in the modern era need to only shake the hands of fans before the game to have enough grease on their hands to throw a slick, disgusting baseball. Hand acne has become quite a problem.

Tools: Back in the days when players held more than one job, pitchers would take the tools of their trade out to the mound and scuff up the ball. Cobblers, riveters, farriers, you name it. It was only when the carpenters started sawing the ball in half that the league stepped in.

Poo: I remain unconvinced that Kenny Rogers didn't have waste of an unknown origin on his hand during the 2006 Playoffs. Sorry, just calling it like I see it.

See, it's as traditional for players to mess with the baseball as it is to eat crackerjack and pretend it's not terrible. Just as Michael Pineda had a brown substance on his hand, Clay Buchholz was rubbing his hands through his hair and getting filth and insects all over the ball. But I'm sure this is the last we'll ever have to hear about any of this. Right.